What if this happened to you … a hacker cracked your password and gained access to all of your customer data, or … an online virus attacked your system and caused you to lose all of your invoices. What would you lose in these situations?
- Productivity, because the data would have to be re-entered.
- Your reputation, if the hacker gained access to your email or used your customer data and it is tracked back to your website (or your website is suspected).
- Business, you would not have as much time to pursue customers while you repair your system, and you may have lost significantly in word-of-mouth referrals.
For small to medium-sized businesses, the threat is very real. Not only might a stranger decide to target your business with the assumption that your system will not be secure, you may also face animosity from your vendors and clients. These days, it is vital to your business to safeguard your business data.
If you are not already backing up your data, you should implement a policy and procedure for this task immediately. Many operating systems have backup applications that you can utilize, but does not offer redundant storage. In addition to local computer backups, an external hard-drive or third-party company will allow you to store backed up data offsite in another physical location. This is considered best practice in case of fire, theft or natural disaster.
Data backups should be automatic and simple. Here are a few recommendations:
- Backup your data on a daily to weekly basis.
- Verify your backups periodically—make sure that you can access the information and that the system is working as expected.
- Set up a system in which you can backup information quickly when needed. Always backup data after adding important documents such as invoices or customer financial data.
Fortify Your Passwords
Make sure to use passwords that are not easy to guess. For instance, many people are still using passwords like ‘abc123’ or ‘password123’. Not a good idea. Also, use different passwords for your personal or social online activity and your work or banking activities. You may have simple information which is not necessarily guess-able, but which you include on a social website. That too comprises your security.
A good password should be long, have upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers or special characters. Another good tip is to create a sentence for a password. For example, I want 1 goldfish and 3 tetras could be a good password written together. If it is too long for some sites, you could abbreviate it to IW1Gfa3Ts.
Encrypt Mobile Data
If you carry important information on a mobile device or laptop, protect yourself by encrypting it. Mobile technologies can be easy targets for pick-pocketers or those who happen upon misplaced phones, tablets or laptops. Devices are not only taken, they can be sold to the people who know how to make use of them, including selling or using the information and data they contain.
Encryption is a method where data is scrambled and can only be read by the person with the encryption key. By encrypting your mobile information, you protect your business from ongoing and disabling effects resulting from theft or loss of a device.
Protect Your Business
If you run a successful small or medium-sized business, you put a lot of work into it. You maintain your vendors and clients carefully and manage to create profit whether the economy is predictable or challenging. Do not ignore the fact that hackers are lurking—they are out there. On the local scene, they sometimes go after you for personal reasons. On a global level, hackers are seeking out computer networks to hack into 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Make sure your data is safe. Take advantage of the simple, convenient tools that are now available for backup storage, and be careful as you engage online both socially and in business.
This post was sent by Joe Schembri who has over 10 years of IT experience including IT security. He currently works for University Alliance and some of their partner universities cyber security training courses. Some of the courses help train for industry certifications such as the CISSP certification exam.
Power outages, they happen and they never happen at a convenient time. What will you do when your business loses power? Will you sit and wait hoping that your server will come back up? Or do you have a plan to enact and secure your data, company, and future?
In my years in the Information Technology industry I have seen power outages caused by weather, accidents, water main breaks, and animals. It is the most common disaster event I have worked with. They will happen to you. Are you prepared?
What should you do to be prepared?
Figure out the steps you need to take to preserve your servers, network gear, and workstations.
- Have a plan. A full disaster plan may have a section for power outages that last days, such as getting a generator or relocating. This really isn't feasible for small business. But having a checklist or plan what to do during a power outage will help.
- Walk through the plan BEFORE the power goes out. Test it verbally. Check each step to make sure it makes sense and is feasible.
- Follow the plan during the next outage. Try to take notes what really didn't work and what worked well.
How long can you be without power? What is the financial loss with the power outages lasting 15 minutes, an hour, or a day? Knowing this will help you determine how fast you need power back on get buy in for any investments into technology improvements to address this.
Have your power company’s phone number and your account number so you can call and report the outage and find out how long it will be. This will help in your decisions process. Some power companies have websites reporting outage information. And yes, they sometimes are set up for smart phone interfaces.
Have an idea who needs to be alerted that the power went out and when to alert them. These are the owners, clients, employees, and service providers. If you rent your space, have the contact information for them as well. Make sure to include cell phones if possible as they may be without power as well.
Have flashlights. Your smart phone flashlight will only last so long.
Have your plan handy so you don’t stumble around in the dark trying finding it.
Keep critical systems on an Uninterruptable power supply (UPS). At the very least you should have your devices on surge protectors.
BACKUP YOU’RE DATA. You may lose the data being worked on that was not saved or backed up since the last back up job. But if you lose your server, or just a couple of hard drives without a well thought out back schedule. You will lose your company. Having a backup solution will help mitigate this risk.
Hopefully some of these ideas help prepare you for your next power outage. By being prepared, you are investing in your future.